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One slice of the point of view pie

There are many articles and books about point of view. The following is an excerpt from a talk given by author Jim Dodge.

Narrator – Who tells the story.

The most used pov: First person and third person.

There are three types of first person point of view.

First person direct.

First person indirect.

First person objective.

First person direct: Protagonist carries conflict and is usually involved.

Direct – “it happened to me.”

When narrator carries conflict = direct perception.

This is the most difficult point of view to work with – has to be compelling voice to hold readers’ interest.

If you can pull it off, it’s powerful.

Stories move in time and space.

Problems with first person point of view: person has to be “everywhere” to get information.

First person indirect: Reflective, or indirect: narrator does not carry conflict. Narrator is a character and in a relationship with the protagonist.

Problem with this pov is that you can’t report what happened unless narrator was there.

Examples: Herman Melville’s Moby Dick – you would have to be in the boat to tell the story.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – you would have to be in the insane asylum

Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series uses the buddy pov narration for these detective stories.

Setting plays in it.

In this pov, the narrator and protagonist are joined at the hip, a close friendship.

The point view is not from the main character.

The idea is that “someone else could tell the story.”

For example, Watson tells Sherlock Holmes’ story.

Split point of view – Two or more narrators. They can tell the story from their point of view in a strict rotation, in a sequence, or randomly.

First person objective: The third type of first person pov is detached and tells the story like a transcript of the events that happened. The narrator never discloses anything about what the characters think or feel, remaining a detached observer.

The Laughing Man by J.D. Salinger tells the story from an unnamed narrator.

Second person point of view: You.  Rarely used, common in poetry.

Third person pov: He/she/it/they.

It’s easy to move in space and time to tell the story when using third person. This is the most flexible point of view.

Omniscient narrator: Has attributes of God. Omnipotent: all powerful, present everywhere. Knows anything and everything about characters.

Omniscient narrator has full access to any character at any time (past, present, future).

Omniscient narrator can comment on what characters are doing and on their patterns of behavior, movement, thoughts.

Your turn: Decide on a subject and write from an objective point of view. Describe the scene as a camera would record it. Write what the camera lens sees and hears (if it’s a video camera, or a phone recording). Describe the scene like a screenplay. You can’t write what the characters are thinking (the camera can’t see or hear this).

You can show the characters’ emotions with body language and physical gestures (what can be seen) and with dialogue (what can be heard).

Need a topic to write about? Choose one of the prompts on The Write Spot Blog.

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